The importance of the honours system as an institution in British politics and public life has frequently been underestimated. At the end of the First World War, the British government prioritized voluntary service to the state as an area which the honours system should reward more than others through the newly created Order of the British Empire. However, after the war the Order changed to focus more on civil servants, soldiers, and the broad category of 'local service'. The latter could include volunteers, but more often did not. Various attempts to democratize honours through reforms from the 1960s focused on rewarding a wider range of service. The most successful of these was John Major's honours reform programme in 1993, which returned volunteer service to the forefront of the public image of honours. While these reforms were not as egalitarian as they seemed, they were successful because they integrated an ideology of crown honours with the other functions of the modern monarchy and opened up the honours system to a wider potential set of recipients. At the same time, they maintained a hierarchical structure that meant that elites who had traditionally enjoyed the exclusivity of high honours continued to do so.
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